(BC Ferries/Twitter)

Amid sailing cancellations and repealed federal vaccination policies, BC Ferries says it’s working to hire back hundreds of unvaccinated workers on unpaid leave.

Last week, the federal government announced that, as of June 20th, vaccination requirements for domestic and outbound travel would be suspended, including for federal government employees and federally regulated transportation sectors.

“This last segment applies to us at BC Ferries,” spokesperson Deborah Marshall told Victoria Buzz, noting that, as a result, the corporation was able to suspend its vaccine policy on Monday.

“This action will support Canada’s transportation system as we recover from the pandemic,” said Transport Minister Omar Alghabra in a statement.

BC Ferries currently has around 150 employees on leave without pay due to the policy, and according to Marshall, management is in the process of reaching out to them to check on their intention to return. 

It was in January when BC Ferries’ vaccination policy came into effect. Since then, the corporation has been plagued by sailing cancellations and revisions with “crewing challenges” to blame.

Ferry-goers were warned in March to expect delays and altered sailing schedules this summer due to staff vaccination policies, troubles recruiting international candidates, and a lack of professional mariners.

“We require a specific number of crew members on board the vessel to ensure the safety of our passengers in the unlikely event of an emergency and to comply with Transport Canada regulations,” stated a recent service notice.

Last week, BC Ferries advised of cancellations leading into and during this past weekend on the Queen of New Westminster, which sails from Sidney’s Swartz Bay to Tsawwassen and vice versa.

The federal government adds that it will make adjustments based on the latest public health advice, meaning public service and transport vaccination mandates could return this fall.

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